The art of Frieda Harris, 1877–1962


Searching around for artwork by Frieda Harris turned up a few examples I hadn’t seen before including the marvellous painting above which is unfortunately untitled and undated. Harris is very familiar to Aleister Crowley aficionados and those with an interest in the Tarot via her paintings for the Thoth Tarot deck, a project that she and Crowley worked on during the 1930s. The deck is justly celebrated for its modernising of the Tarot symbolism, and for its radical art style which wasn’t afraid to combine some of the developments in 20th-century art with Harris’s studies of Projective Synthetic Geometry.


Masonic Tracing Boards.

Less familiar is her work away from the Tarot deck, some of which can be seen here. Prior to meeting Crowley, Harris was involved with Freemasonry for which she produced three designs for the Masonic teaching aids known as Tracing Boards. (See larger copies here.) I used to think these looked like outtakes from the Tarot deck but seeing them in the light of the mysterious painting above it’s evident that the Tarot style wasn’t unique to that set of cards.


Liber Aleph vel CXI: The Book of Wisdom or Folly (1918) by Aleister Crowley.

A book cover which pre-dates the Tarot designs. The heads are the traditional embodiments of the four elements but with one change: the human figure has a feminine face rather than the usual masculine features. The same figures appear on her painting for the final Tarot Trump, The Universe (below), but in a more traditional guise.

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